Experienced teachers will know the vital importance of handwashing in school. You only have to witness the lightning speed with which a stomach bug can sweep through a school for the message to hit home.
Establishing good handwashing habits as a child doesn’t just keep our children healthier, it ensures the next generation of adults have better handwashing habits than us. A staggering 62% of men and 32% of women admit they don’t wash their hands regularly.
Think of all the food contamination and germ transmission that could be avoided simply by getting in the habit of regular handwashing as a child. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 1 million lives could be saved, along with seeing huge reductions in respiratory infections and diarrheal disease. And this impact could increase in the future, as scientists predict ever more resistant strains of illnesses. It’s imperative that we learn how to limit the spread of disease.
But how can teachers go about educating their class on the importance of handwashing?
Make it fun
All teachers know children absorb information best when it is presented in fun and engaging ways. Simple things like singing a cheery handwashing song can make all the difference. You could also source stories about handwashing, set up sticker reward charts for children to chart their progress and have your class draw pictures about handwashing.
Keep it simple
Make sure the information you give your class is age-appropriate. Young children will love a basic description about germs and their dangers. You could even create a cartoon germ character – or let the children draw their own. This is a fun and imaginative way to get across that essential knowledge about infection control. Older children can benefit from a more scientific explanation, perhaps incorporated into lessons about biology.
Colourful images are the ideal thing to make handwashing tips eye-catching. Informative infographics like the one below or posters of the children’s favourite superheroes or book characters washing their hands are easy to find online. Hang them near the washbasins, on the back of toilet doors and in your classroom. The more reminders the better!
Teach good handwashing technique
Many adults may not realise they are washing their hands incorrectly so establishing proper technique is all-important. Common mistakes include not washing the back of hands and nails and forgetting about the soap. A quick rinse under the taps is not sufficient to kill off germs and bacteria! Teachers need to relay the importance of using soap and rubbing it all over the entire hands for at least 20 seconds before rinsing with clean water.
Children learn by watching. And with so many of us failing to wash our hands properly, teachers need to ensure they have learnt the correct technique and use it to model good handwashing practices for their class.
Get into a routine
Once children get the hang of washing their hands properly, it’s time to set up a regular routine for handwashing. This includes washing hands before and after eating and food preparation, after using the toilet, after sneezing or coughing and after touching class pets.
Teachers have the unique opportunity to teach the next generation to be far more hygienic than adults today. Hopefully this will have significantly positive benefits for their health and wellbeing.
Image credit: Galleon Supplies